On this day in music history: August 10, 1968 – “Stay In My Corner” by The Dells hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also peaking at #10 on the Hot 100 on August 24, 1968. Written by Wade Flemons, Robert Eugene Miller and Barrett Strong, it is first chart topping single for the R&B vocal group from Harvey, IL. Originally from the Chicago suburb of Harvey, IL, The Dells are formed in 1952 by high school friends Marvin Junior, Verne Allison, Johnny Funches, Chuck Barksdale, and Mickey and Lucius McGill. First calling themselves The El-Rays, then The Mighty Dells, their name is amended to The Dells. Signing with Vee-Jay Records in 1955, they score their first hit in the Fall of 1956 with “Oh, What A Nite” (#4 R&B). The Dells’ career is nearly derailed permanently, when the group are involved in a near fatal car accident in November of 1958. With Marvin Junior and Mickey McGill sidelined with serious injuries, The Dells disband for over a year. Johnny Fuchnes leaves the line up, tiring of the road and wanting to spend more time with his family. Chuck Clarksdale joins The Moonglows for a time, which features a then twenty year old Marvin Gaye as one its members. Reforming in late 1960, The Dells audition for singer Dinah Washington, becoming backing vocalists for her for the next two years. Johnny Carter is hired as Funches’ replacement, adding a vital element to the group’s sound, with his thrilling falsetto and tenor voice. They first record the song “Stay In My Corner” (#23 R&B) in 1965 as one of their last recordings for Vee-Jay. The song is penned by Miller, Wade Flemons (later an early member of Earth, Wind & Fire) and Motown lyricist Barrett Strong (“Money (That’s What I Want)”). The Dells are signed to Chess Records’ Cadet imprint in 1966, where they had originally made their recording debut as The El-Rays in 1954. The group are paired with Chess staff producer Bobby Miller, one of the co-writers of “Stay”. Three years after the original recording, The Dells record a dramatically different version of “Stay In My Corner”. Recorded at Chess Studios in January of 1968, arranger and resident genius Charles Stepney gives the song an epic makeover, augmented with a string section, provided by members of The Chicago Symphony Orchestra. “Corner” features musicians Louis Satterfield (bass), Phil Upchurch (guitar), Morris Jennings (drums) and Stepney himself (piano) as the rhythm section. Stretched out to over six minutes, and revved up to a fiery church like crescendo, by Marvin Junior and Johnny Carter’s co-lead vocals, “Stay” is included on the album “There Is”. Initially considered way too long to be issued as a single, “Wear It On Our Face” (#27 R&B, #44 Pop) is released in tandem with the album in March of 1968. However, DJ’s and fans discover “Stay In My Corner” as an album track, and press for its release as a single. Issued in June of 1968, the song becomes a smash while The Dells are touring abroad, returning home to find out they have a huge hit on their hands. Though Chess provides radio stations with an edit that cuts the song in half, most stations prefer to play the long version, which is issued as the stock 45. Becoming an instant classic, “Stay In My Corner” becomes The Dells’ biggest hit. It also prompts them to revive “Oh, What A Night” (#1 R&B, #10 Pop) in early 1969, with a new arrangement that also tops the R&B singles chart and hits the top ten on the pop chart. The group re-record “Stay” again in 1982, during their stint on 20th Century Records, though it does not chart. Regarded as one the greatest R&B singles of all time, the chart topping version of “Stay In My Corner”, is featured prominently in director Robert Townsend’s film “The Five Heartbeats” in 1991.
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